Long Beach has a long history of innovation. It’s one of the densest aerospace hubs on the West Coast. There’s a vital port there, and the city is home to several tech industries—including health care, space tech and cybersecurity. That, along with its colleges and universities, have made Long Beach an enticing destination for entrepreneurs.
It’s within this environment that the Long Beach Accelerator sprouted in 2019 and has grown since. To date, the accelerator has cycled 20 companies through its four-month program, helping them raise a total of over $12 million.
On July 5, the program will welcome its fourth cohort of startups from around the world, participating in a hybrid combo of virtual and in-person sessions. Each cohort includes between five to 10 companies.
Long Beach, along with Cal State University, Long Beach’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and capital provider Sunstone Management, are all partners in this public-private model of startup investment. The accelerator itself operates as a nonprofit.
Long Beach Accelerator Managing Director Andrea White-Kjoss
The city provides help with some funding, covering the costs for some low- to moderate income Long Beach-based founders whose companies are accepted into the accelerator.
The organization's partnership with CSULB enables it to help founders move from idea stage to execution at the institute, and then advance to business growth via the accelerator.
Sunstone Management, a private capital management and investment firm, provides funding for the incoming cohorts. The firm's venture capital fund typically invests $100,000 in the startups as soon as they join the accelerator and takes a 6% equity stake in return.
Sunstone had also been providing some follow-on funding on a case-by-case basis. It upped the ante earlier this year by promising an additional $500,000 to current cohort and alumni.
“It's a model that brings enormous resources to the table for our portfolio companies, as well as for economic development, acting as a growth engine for the region,” managing director Andrea White-Kjoss told dot.LA.
A serial entrepreneur who has served as CFO at several companies, White-Kjoss came aboard as the founding managing director in July 2020. Before that, she co-founded seed-stage funding platform ExtraVallis, based in Rancho Santa Fe, and founded Mobis Transportation, which was the product of a public-private partnership with the city of Long Beach.
She also happens to be a 17-year resident of the city.
“So I know intimately how attractive this city is to tech entrepreneurs, from the high-tech industries, to the culture and lifestyle, to the world-class workforce and institutions,” she said. “When you bring all of that together...the opportunity to build a tech accelerator, and more than that really, a tech ecosystem here in Long Beach, was natural and irresistible.”
The accelerator was originally intended to be in-person, but quickly had to pivot to remote sessions during the pandemic. It remains virtual, for the most part, “which has turned out to be a huge source of strength,” White-Kjoss said.
That’s because the founders come from all over the world. There’s no geographic restrictions on who’s accepted and no need to burden founders with moving to Long Beach to participate.
White-Kjoss said the move has fostered diversity, and enabled the accelerator to draw on an international network of mentors, instructors, advisors and investors.
They—along with the accelerator’s staff of three facilitators — get to know the companies and their founders “deeply” and provide individualized assistance, including building strategic partnerships with potential customers and/or marketing partners.
There is still an in-person aspect to the accelerator. All cohort founders fly into Long Beach for about two weeks during the program. While there, they attend in-person workshops and networking events. They also participate in a Demo Day, with investors present. This helps the companies get additional seed funding for continued growth once they graduate.
So far, five graduating startups have received acquisition offers—but none have taken them.
White-Kjoss said that’s because those founders “felt they had much further to take their companies, at least in some degree, due to the empowerment of the tools, resources and networks provided by the accelerator.”
One success is Los Angeles-based Bump. Since graduating from the Long Beach Accelerator, Bump has raised more than $5 million, co-founder and CEO James Jones told dot.LA.
It’s currently participating in another accelerator, Snap’s in-house Yellow Accelerator, which is now a co-lead investor in Bump, along with Sunstone.
The company is working on an AI-fueled fintech platform for the creator economy, which hasn’t yet launched. It would help creators track revenue from multiple sources, monitor expenses, access credit and manage their crypto and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
The company has started a waitlist, for access to its credit and financial management tools. Once the services are available users would pay about $400 per year.
The company also plans to integrate micro-advances into its platform, designed to enable creators to stay in full control of their finances and keep 100% of the rights to their work.
Jones said that participating in the Long Beach Accelerator’s very first cohort was a “great springboard” for the company.
Specifically, sessions on customer personas and discovering addressable markets, as well as mentor meetings were “invaluable,” he added.
Meet the Startups In the Long Beach Accelerator's Latest Cohort:
Apsy: Creating the first true fully AI platform to build affordable elegant custom apps.
Crumbraise, Inc.: Fundraising made easy for creators, clubs & causes.
Educational Vision Technologies, Inc.: Automated video editing and content curation using A.I. to make online learning accessible, efficient and engaging.
Gift Pass App Inc.: Streamlining experiences around digital gifting & payments.
The Girls Co LLC: We are a women's health company that is currently focused on a solution to alleviate period cramp pain.
Intellitech Spa Inc.: Intellitech is a realtime telematics, predictive maintenance and driver behavior monitoring platform.
Kwema: Kwema provides an easy to scale Smart Badge Reel Duress Service that reduces incident response time without escalating the situation.
Pathloom, Inc.: Outdoor trip planning made easy!
Rotender: The world's fastest and most reliable bar.
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